Eugene-native runners head to NCAA championships
The Oregon cross country team will be sending two Track Town, U.S.A. natives to the NCAA Championships on Nov. 22 in Terre Haute. Junior Matt Melancon and sophomore Maggie Schmaedick, who both attended Sheldon High School in Eugene, have each played crucial roles in the Ducks’ success this season.
The 2014 NCAA championship will be Melancon’s third national appearance in his career at UO. His best finish came in 2012 when Melancon placed 97th in the men’s 10k with a time of 30:41.2 and pace of 4:56.3 per mile.
“When I was in middle school, I remember watching Galen Rupp and those guys really making an impact in Eugene,” Melancon said. “It was always a goal of mine to move up and make it to the University of Oregon track team.”
Melancon finished third on the Ducks and 15th overall this year in the men’s 8k at the Pac-12 championship, in which No. 2 Oregon placed second behind No. 1 Colorado for the second consecutive year.
“We’ve closed the gap on Colorado considerably since the pre-national meet, but we can still get closer,” Melancon said. “It’s really a blessing in disguise to be the underdog, because you don’t have to worry about what anyone else is thinking of you.”
Schmaedick and the No. 3 Oregon women’s cross country team will also play the underdog role when it meets No. 1 Michigan State in the national championships. She finished 15th overall at the Pac-12 championships en route to the team’s second title in three years.
“It was so cool to be a part of something bigger than myself,” Schmaedick said. “When we sat down at training camp and set our goals for the season, we wanted to win the conference title. Now that we’ve accomplished that, it puts so much meaning into all the work we’ve put in.”
Like Melancon, Schmaedick is no stranger to the big stage either. She competed individually at the IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships in July and finished 12th with a time of 16:19.01 in the 5k. Despite the personal milestone, it’s the team win at the national championships which Schmaedick so desperately covets.
Sheldon head coach Brayce Forsha, who coached Schmaedick in her junior and senior years of high school, says its her rare combination of talent and drive that separates Schmaedick from the pack.
“When I started at Sheldon, Maggie was injured due to overtraining from her crazy desire to be great — that injury opened her eyes to evaluate how she’s training and what she did wrong,” said Forsha. “From that point on, she was a sponge; she took all advice to heart and worked harder than anyone was willing to work.”
Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams placed first at the NCAA West Regionals for the first time in 26 years. The regional meet was Oregon’s final step before heading to the national championships at the end of this week.
“For the most part, we did exactly what we set out to do: work on a few things, be conservative, and advance to the NCAA Championships,” head coach Robert Johnson said. “We always enjoy championship season.”
Follow Kenny Jacoby on Twitter @kennyjacoby
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